Philadelphia 76ers: The disappointment of the Markelle Fultz era

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers traded the top pick of the 2017 draft for a return that would normally look horrific for a player taken in Markelle Fultz’s position. While the Fultz era will be remembered as badly as the Andrew Bynum era for many fans, I see it as a dream promised by “The Process” that turned into a nightmare for everyone involved.

Once the Philadelphia 76ers traded for Tobias Harris, I began to think that it was still possible for Markelle Fultz to be an important part of the team. The Sixers traded away one of their best bench players in Landry Shamet and all Fultz would have to do is focus on defense and passing, or playing the role of Ben Simmons when Simmons is on the bench.

I knew it was foolish to even think about him helping the Sixers, but part of me wanted to believe it was possible. Or maybe part of me thought Fultz’s trade value was so low, that I’d rather see the Sixers play him than give up an asset to force a team to accept him. Fultz’s contract was going to be an issue for them going forward and it’s impossible to have any faith that the young man that played point guard at Washington would ever turn into the player most people thought he could be.

The fact that the Orlando Magic was willing to give up more than a 2023 second-round pick for Fultz, is an indictment of how bad their rebuild has gone. The Magic started their rebuild a year before the Sixers started “the Process” as the only team that was part of the trade that sent Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets, Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, Nikola Vucevic to the Magic, and Bynum to the Sixers to not receive a player that made at least one All-Star team.

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Before Tuesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Magic had 25 wins and 32 losses and had an extreme weakness at point guard. Their starting point guard D.J. Augustin is averaging 11.6 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.1 rebounds per game while playing 27.9 minutes per game at 31 years old. Ignoring Fultz’s draft position, his 8.2 points, 3.1 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game while playing 22.5 minutes per game at 20 years old, would look good for a team that currently has the 10th best record in the Eastern Conference and tied with the Pelicans for the 22/23rd worst record in the NBA.

They aren’t likely to be bad enough to win the lottery and get projected number one pick Zion Williamson from Duke, so hoping Fultz gets over his physical issue and becomes an All-Star player is worth Jonathon Simmons, a 2019 second-round pick belonging to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and a top-20 protected 2020 first-round pick belonging to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

We gave the Sixers a B for the Fultz trade, and I agree with that assessment. I’ve written several articles complaining about the Sixers’ bench and Jonathon Simmons’ 6.9 points per game is 0.2 points higher than the Sixers’ recently traded starter Wilson Chandler’s average. And the Sixers had almost no trade assets after the Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris trades, so getting anything that could help them complete a trade in the future for a player that no longer had a role on this team is an accomplishment.

Fultz was supposed to play the role of secondary ball handler and scorer that was capable of guarding perimeter players Ben Simmons would struggle to defend, or the role Butler is playing now. He was then expected to be Ben Simmons’ backup and help an underperforming bench, or the role that T.J. McConnell is playing now.

Finally, he became the injured player with no expectations that could someday return to the Sixers and be an unexpected boost to a team that now lacks the ability to trade for that player, or the role that Zhaire Smith is playing now.

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The Sixers officially ending their relationship with Fultz is great for everyone, and the Magic’s inability to turn Victor Oladipo into the player became after joining the Indian Pacers keeps me from fearing he’ll into the Fultz the Sixers thought they were drafting, it’s just disappointing that it had to end this way.